When I was in eighth grade, I remember sitting by my dog, waiting for my carpool, the McLaughlin’s in their giant van, to pick me up. I’d sit there on our ratty grey couch, so tired, so not enthused about going to school, petting my dog, Zoie and thinking,
“I wish I was a dog.”
How great it would feel to just relax on the couch all day. My dog then and my dog now, Lizzo, have the same daily agenda- Food, walk, snuggle, repeat. What a great day!
My dog knows something about peace that I don’t. She is trying to teach me every time she puts her chin in my lap.
There is a concept in yoga called the Ujjayi breath. It’s where you breathe deep into the back of your throat and nasal passage, making a sound like Darth Vader and exhale like you’re fogging up glass. Making the sound is supposed to help you stay grounded to your breath. You can hear it and come back to the sound/sensation throughout your practice with this breath consciousness.
Lizzo is a conscious breather. She snores when she is asleep and when she’s awake. It may be her age (three and a half) or the fact that she was a mother. I can only speculate. What came before I adopted her last April is a bit of a mystery, but she is remarkable. She is an exceptional creature in that she waits patiently, just breathing and observing as I try to get my act together, finding her leash and other incidentals to get out the door for our morning walk. She gazes from her spot, breathing deeply, completely in the moment, perfectly content.
When I bend down to put my shoes on, she slips her head under my arm so that I hug her. Looking at me with here adorable eyes asking, “Snugs?”
“Ah yes. Snugs. Always snugs. I can pet you and put my shoes on at the same time.”
I didn’t rescue her. She rescued me.
She rescued me from sleeping too much, from living too much in my head, from not getting outside enough, from not loving and appreciating enough. Your heart is a muscle that must be exercised and Lizzo is my personal trainer, readying me for more love to come.
I am making a career pivot to teaching, largely as a result of Covid19 freezing my performing arts career. This transition is one that I am processing slower than the accelerated pace of my online masters program through Kansas State University.
These things take time.
However, as I am digesting writing and teaching philosophies, I return to a lesson I learned as a freshman writer. “We write to teach ourselves what we already know.” I know that, in a sense, I am already a teacher. My writing practice is internal lesson planning, the words pouring onto the page for the eyes of their prized pupil to take in.
I woke up today remembering my tutoring experience in high school. I volunteered to teach basic computer skills to a retiree through the Shepherd Center. They paired older adults with high school students and we tutored them at my school’s computer lab.
The lady I was paired with was a nun in her late 70’s. She wanted to learn to use the computer so that she could type up the religious poetry she wrote. She knew nothing of computers at all. She was a warm spirit, with a lighthearted kookiness about her. I taught her how to play solitaire to help her use the mouse. She was absolutely tickled by this game. It felt like a new adventure to her every week, sitting there, going through the steps to open the game and slowly dragging the cards to their rightful places. The joy of the cards of exploding when she won, made her laugh uproariously. She was always so gracious, thanking me profusely at the end of every session.
One day I came to the computer room, and she was showing a bit of plumber’s crack above her swishy tracksuit. I held my giggles in, unsure if I should address it, as she hollered “Annie how do you start this again?”
At dinner that night, I told my mom that Ms. Kurzweil, my student, was a bit of a character. She said, “Kurzweil. That’s your great grandma’s maiden name. Is this Anna Kurzweil?”
It turns out this character and I were related. I called my grandma and spoke to her about the family connection, gathered some family photos together, and brought them into our next tutoring session. I explained to her that she was actually my great aunt. I think she replied with something like “Oh, how nice.”
From then on, I called her Aunt Anna and we hugged goodbye after every meeting. On our last day together, she asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I told her I love to perform and planned to pursue a career in acting. She told me, “Well you’d make a really great teacher.”
The show consisted of short stories told through dramatization, and song, intertwined with scenes of me writing at my desk, finding the words.
Flash forward a year, and I am here, at my desk still finding the words. The enduring display of life imitating art and vice versa -it’s what makes my life worth living - this mirroring.
In a year’s time, I have been to Alaska and back, fallen in love, out of love, into depression, started a podcast, rescued a dog, climbed my way out of depression, and gone back to school to earn my Masters in Teaching.
As 2020 has thickened the plot, throwing this virus in our path, I won’t be performing for a live audience again, not for a while.
I’ll shelf my actor self, she can look down on me crying, like a melo-dramatic elf.
I’ll allow my memoir to come to me in real time here on the blog, not as an old woman dying in bed, rattling off old tales to the youngins.Though I hope to still be writing to my death.
I will be writing to my life.
To my life
that I’m still creating day by day.
To my life that feels contained by school
but untamed by a pandemic-ridden society.
To my life
where I hope to help another;
a student, a colleague, a friend
cherish there's a little more
beside my words.